Trust Vs Competence: What's More Important In A Professional Work Environment?

First impressions matter and being approachable is more important than coming across as competent when you meet someone new in your workplace, according to a Harvard Business School professor. This can have a lasting impact on your career.

Smiling businesswoman image from Shutterstock

Amy Cuddy is a professor at Harvard Business School and has studied the concept of first impressions for over 15 years. She deduced that there are two factors people will assess when they meet another person for the first time: trust and respect. This relates to "warmth" and "competence", respectively.

Specifically, people will quickly answer the questions of "Can I trust this person?" and "Can I respect this person?" to develop a first impression on someone else.

In professional work environments, there is a misguided notion that competence is valued over warmth. But Cuddy said warmth, or trustworthiness, is the more important quality to convey when you meet someone for the first time. Competence is evaluated only after you have established trust.

"If someone you're trying to influence doesn't trust you, you're not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative,” Cuddy told Business Insider. “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat."

Some of the mistakes employees make at work because of they believe competence outweighs warmth are skipping social events, not asking for help and exuding an unapproachable demeanour, all the name of appearing smart and capable. This can backfire as these individuals may be overlooked for promotions because nobody got to know and trust them in the company.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you value a person you can trust or a person who is highly competent in a workplace? Let us know in the comments.

[Via Business Insider Australia]


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